Iowa Homes, Businesses Still Flooded After 100 Days

The Mississippi River crested in Burlington not once or twice, but three times, causing $1.5 million in damage to downtown. The highest of these was June 2, when the river crested at 24.48 feet.

by Laigha Anderson, The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa / June 19, 2019
In this Wednesday, June 12, 2019 photo, Matt Cooper, with the city of Dubuque, cleans off an area of American Trust River's Edge Plaza in Dubuque, Iowa, after high water levels of the Mississippi River left large amounts of debris and mud. AP

(TNS) — Today marks the 100th day of flooding along the Mississippi River at Burlington.

Over the course of these past 100 days, Burlington has spent 95 days at the Major flood stage.

The Mississippi River crested in Burlington not once or twice, but three times. The highest of these was June 2 when the river crested at 24.48 feet, the city's third-highest crest since record keeping began.

Despite the high waters, the impact of the flood in downtown Burlington was still minimal. Most of the parking spots along the river were available to park in and the Port of Burlington and Memorial Auditorium remained open. Despite flood-related damage throughout Des Moines County, the county remained left out of the disaster declaration for the state.

That was, until the floodwaters caused Hesco barriers south of Memorial Auditorium to fail June 1, inundating portions of downtown Burlington.

The result was $1.5 million worth of damage to downtown. The worst of the damage was to the auditorium. The damage included the floor and the risers, as well as equipment in the kitchen and the basement.

The north and south auditorium parking lots were underwater, impeding access to more than 125 parking spaces. Most of the other off-street parking lots in downtown Burlington are paid parking, leaving only two no-charge parking lots, which made parking in downtown Burlington difficult.

But the river has receded. Burlington has only had 1.2 inches of rain this month, and there was virtually no rain for the first 10 days of the month. The dry spell has led to constant decreases in the river. At 3 p.m. Tuesday, the river was at 17.54 feet, almost 6 inches below the 18-foot major flood stage. The National Weather Service is calling for the river at Burlington to drop below 15 feet, which is considered to be minor flood stage, by the middle of next week.

As the river gets closer to being out of flood stage, the clean up is finally able to begin.

Officials with the Greater Burlington Partnership were able to get into the port Tuesday, two and a half weeks after it was inundated with flood waters. The floor was covered with mud and the water was about 6 inches below the 'Flood of 1993' marker at 25 feet.

There will be some work to reopen the Welcome Center and GBP is seeking volunteers to get help with the cleanup. Anyone who would like to help can sign up at GreaterBurlingtonPartnership.com.

The Iowa Department of Homeland Security and the Des Moines County Emergency Management Agency are encouraging any residents or businesses that suffered severe damage as a result of the flood to submit documentation of the damage.

"This is a way of letting the state know, this is what happened in Des Moines County," Des Moines County Emergency Management Coordinator Gina Hardin said.

Hardin said the county needs to have 25 residents or business owners that have sustained severe damage to their property. "Severe damage" is generally considered any water on the first floor. So even if water caused serious harm to the basement or if the water caused the business to shut down temporarily, as in the case of The Drake Restaurant, that would not be considered severe damage.

Those with severe damage should go to dhs.iowa.gov and click on the disaster assistance tab. Those who do not have a computer or need help applying for assistance should call (319) 208-5655.

If it is found that 25 residents or businesses have suffered severe damage, the Small Business Administration has the ability to do an assessment and provide relief. In the meantime, SBA is offering low interest loans to qualifying businesses. To see if a business qualifies, go to disasterloan.sba.gov.

As of right now, there is no assistance available for workers who were temporarily unemployed as a result of the floods. Iowa Workforce Development does have a disaster related unemployment program, but its unclear if anyone in Des Moines County would count as being under the program because the federal disaster ended on May 16.

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©2019 The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa)

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